Dr. Matthew DeForrest
ENG435/ TR 9:30-10:45
March 1, 2010
Individualism: First Generation Romantics
The Romantics were known for their use of the unusual and old-fashioned in their poetry because they were in a very unusual and old-fashioned state of mind when writing their poetry. The Romantics were experimental writers and they lived during a very tough time period, and itshowed in their poetry. The Romantic period had the shortest life span of any literary era in the English language. It lasted 43 years, beginning from 1789 to 1832. It started during the French revolution and ended during the parliamentary reforms, which established a foundation for which still exists in modern day Britain. There were six major Romantics, and they were split into two generations. The first generation consisted of William Blake, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The second generation consisted of Percy Bysshe, John Keats, and George Gordon, Lord Byron. These poets were considered old-fashionedbecause they were the first to experiment with this style of writing. There was no one before them, so for influence they had to look back to the past for influence. Even when inventing a new style of writing there still has to be some influence. It is very hard to come up your own completely original literary style. They admired the work of Milton and Shakespeare very much. All the first generation romantics felt those two were the best poets and admired their style. Shakespeare and Milton were very old poets and they influenced the Romantics so their poems came off very old-fashioned and out dated. They used very old English that was hard for people to comprehend, making some people feel the writings were unusual. The Romantics were known for their theories on the connection between nature, the mind, and the imagination. The English Romantics accepted the reality of the link between man and nature in the form of the human imagination as the basis of human understanding, rejecting the scientific world view onmaterialism. Imagination is a force, or energy, that allows such a connection to be made. William Blake saw the human imagination as essential to human understanding of the world they live in; he saw reality as a "mental construction." According to Blake and the other Romantic poets, “once the energy of imagination is used effectively to realize the connection between man and nature, the individual gains freedom from the restrictive bonds of unimaginative thought.” The first generation romantics are characterized by their shift in style and subject manner from the Neo Classicalist. The use of satire is rare and the Romantics tend to focus on particular aspects of objects, people, and events instead of the fundamental nature of objects, people and events. One of the most important works pertaining to the change of style during this time was William Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads, which demonstrates Wordsworth’s particular motivations for how he writes the Lyrical Ballads. Notably the subjects of these poems, are “incidents and situations from common life” verses the normal neoclassical subject of incidents and situations from elevated life, like Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock, which is about the aristocracy and not the common people (Norton 266). Wordsworth also changes the style of his poetry when he states, “The reader will find that personifications of abstract ideas rarely occur in these volumes; and, I hope, are utterly rejected as ordinary device to elevate the style, and rise it above prose”, and “there will also be found in these volumes little of what is usually called poetic diction; I have take as much pains to avoid it as others ordinarily talk to produce it; this I have done for the reason already alleged, to bring my language near to the language of men, and further, because the pleasure which I have proposed to myself to impart is of a kind very different from what is...
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